Monday, 5 December 2011

Possession Is Nine-Tenths of the Law: Apostrophes, It’s, and Its

People who speak English as a second language often confuse the use of words that sound similar, and this also commonly occurs in those for whom English is their native language. Sometimes it can be just a matter of having the differences pointed out.  Today I’ll concentrate on apostrophes, and the words its and it’s.

1) Often an apostrophe is used to show possession, but in the case of the pronoun *it* an apostrophe is not used. *Its* is a pronoun used to show possession or ownership and therefore referred to as a *possessive pronoun*.

e.g. My car needs fixing. Its radiator overheated again.

2) *It's* is a contraction of *it is* (or *it has* when *has* is not the primary verb [see below]). The apostrophe takes the place of the letter *i*.

e.g. It’s [it is] cold outside. It’s [it has] been snowing.

When *has* is the primary verb, you cannot use the contraction *it’s* for *it has*.

e.g. *That new movie is boring, even though it has several big name actors* cannot be written *That new movie is boring, even though it’s several big name actors*.

3) An apostrophe doesn't always show possession. None of the possessive pronouns (my, your, his, her, its, our, their, whose) are spelled with an apostrophe.

4) *Apostrophe s* is not used to show plural of everyday words.

e.g. You write one cat, two cats, but not two cat’s.

5)*Apostrophe s* can be used to show the plural of:

a) abbreviations
b) numbers
c) letters

The *apostrophe s* is used where it helps avoid confusion and enables the reader to understand what the writer intended.

a) The term *Personal Computer* is often abbreviated to PC. If you were writing about several personal computers, it could be confusing if you wrote *PCS* or *PCs*, therefore the convention is to write *PC’s* where the reader immediately recognizes the abbreviation for personal computer and realizes the writer is using the *apostrophe s* to make the abbreviation plural.

b) I knew you weren’t born in Australia because you cross your 7’s like they do in Europe.

c) Steve got straight A’s on his report card.

Hopefully this has helped clear up the use of apostrophes in certain cases.


Monday, 21 November 2011

Welcome to my Guest Author: Kate Walker with Giveaways!

Today I welcome Harlequin Mills & Boon Author Kate Walker to DownUnder! And she's got a signed book for one lucky commenter! So over to Kate....

First I'd like to thank Serena for inviting me here to talk to her friends DownUnder.

For my post today,  I want to take a look at Prologues and Epilogues.

Recently I had a writer email me and ask me whether she should start her book in a certain place, and then jump forward a couple of years to tell the main story, or whether she should start at that point a couple of years later - or should she put the past into a Prologue and then move into the main story.  The problem here is basically, should she write a Prologue – or  start the story in what is the present and refer to the past in flashback. I’m not a great fan of flashbacks – particularly not long ones-  but Prologues- and Epilogues  - need to be used with care.

Some authors love Prologues, some- and I'm usually one of them, will avoid them like the plague. But in a 2007  book of mine (Sicilian Husband, Blackmailed Bride) my editor really wanted a Prologue showing the hero and heroine happy together so that the events of a year later (the ones I had as the starting point of the book as it was ) hit home with more impact.

I'll admit I wasn't keen. I argued, almost dug my heels in, but she persisted with her argument and  then I rethought. And I saw just  what she was trying to get me to achieve with this particular prologue and I realised she was right. I said that I would only write it if I could start both the prologue, and the first chapter, with almost the same words. My editor agreed So I conceded, and wrote the Prologue.    And I'm really glad I did because every time I open that book, I'm very happy with the impact it has and many readers have written to me to tell me how much they love it. But, as a general rule, I
don't really like Prologues. Let me explain why.

The first thing to be sure of with a Prologue is that it's really necessary. Because one of the real problems with a Prologue is that by its very nature it usually involves writing something that delays the start of the 'real' book - the reason why the reader has picked it up in the first place - and that is the development of the romance between your hero and heroine. A romance is a short book and the reader expectation is that it will concentrate - guess what - on the romance story.

Prologues usually set up something that one or other of them is unaware of and so you need to be careful that it doesn't have the reader hanging on, wondering just when the other central character will come in, when this problem will be made clear.

The other problem that I have with prologues is the same as the one I have with too much back story. Obviously if the past has a major effect on the actions and feelings of the characters in the present time, then that needs to be shown - but it doesn't necessarily need to be acted out. It can be explained by one of your characters - bringing in much needed dialogue or you can use (carefully) flashbacks. But again the reason why the reader is reading your book is to see the relationship developing in the present - and how they move on from that past.

I'll be honest and say that when I see the word Prologue - which inevitably means something before the real action of the book starts, then I'm always wondering just why this couldn't be woven into the main story. It can look like the author 'writing themselves in' to the main story which doesn’t take off until the next section. This slows the beginning, delaying the real story -  that story in the present. The past may have affected it, but the true story is what happens now. If you need to ask when you should
start your story then the answer is that yo need to look at where your hero and heroine  are at a point of crisis and a point of change – how they start to move one from there is what matters. How they came to be there  is only part of the past – the mental scenery, the backdrop, not the action of the plot.

Epilogues are slightly different. I completely agree that where. there has been a lot of emotional damage, there is a need to show that the healing has worked. But again I do think it's very important to show a lot of that healing in the actual main body of the book. It's part of the Black Moment/satisfying Happy Ending combination that needs to be there not just to bring you characters together but to show that they have grown and moved on emotionally so that they are ready to overcome the fear, the guilt, the doubts. If there is so much of that that the HEA has to be 'proved' later by showing how they are still together you need to be careful that there hasn't been enough healing in the book itself.
Sometimes I have used an epilogue - for example, when the plot hinged around the death of a baby as a result of Cot Death/SIDS - the reader needs the reassurance that in the future this tragedy did not happen again.

But the epilogues I really dislike are the ones that look like padding - the detailed description of the elaborate wedding/christening/whatever when this feels like padding - bringing the word count up to requirements when that could have been used so much more valuably by adding to the conflict or the resolution of that conflict - something that showed character development rather than embroidered the already happy ending.
Sometimes there is a place in your novel for a prologue, or an epilogue – but all too often then can be an excuse for lazy, careless writing.  

In a romance it is important to ending. Written well, this can all be  done in the main force of the story, without any need for an added opening or ending to explain, flashback, or embroider onto that happy ending. I think that for both an epilogue or a prologue, the question should always be, can I tell this in the main part of the novel without lengthy explanations? And if the answer is yes you can, then your story will be so much  tighter and with more pace if you do. And a tighter, pacier read will please your readers so much more!


Standing high on the windswept moors, the lone figure of Heath Montanha vows vengeance on the woman who destroyed the last fragments of his heart...Lady Katherine Charlton has never forgotten the stablehand with dangerous fists and a troubled heart from her childhood. Now the rebel is back, his powerful anger concealed under a polished and commanding veneer. When ten years of scandal and secrets are unleashed, with a passionate, furious kiss, Heath's deepest, darkest wish crystallises...Revenge - and Kat - will be his!

The Return of the Stranger is available from
Amazon & Amazon UK

12 Point Guide to Writing Romance is available from

Amazon & Amazon UK

Where can readers find you?

One lucky commenter will get a signed copy from Kate Walker’s backlist, winner’s choice and all the commenters’ names will go in the grand draw. For more stops on Kate Walker’s celebration tour, please check out the:

Author Page created by Romance Book Paradise Promotions.

Backlist Books:
The Greek Tycoon’s Unwilling Wife
Bedded By The Greek Billionaire
Sicilian Husband, Blackmailed Bride
The Sicilian’s Red-Hot Revenge
The Good Greek Wife?
Kept for Her Baby
The Konstantos Marriage Demand
Cordero’s Forced Bride
Spanish Billionaire, Innocent Wife
The Proud Wife

Monday, 7 November 2011

Finding & Keeping Your Writing Voice

It is said that “finding your writing voice” is part of the journey to success, especially in fiction. We are led to believe that for some people it comes naturally and for others it’s a never ending battle. The truth is we all have our own unique writing voice and it’s there within us all if we dig deep enough and work hard enough.

Often it takes quite a while and a lot of writing before we feel brave enough to show someone else our precious story – the one that has been rattling inside our brain for ages and had to emerge and find its way on to the page (or screen). It is important to get feedback and let others see your work to tell you what works or doesn’t work for them, and perhaps what may or may not work in a particular line or genre. A big mistake often made by beginner writers is to take on board every piece of advice from various critiques, and systematically change everything that is pointed out to them. If several people have commented and suggested the same change, then the writer should seriously consider reviewing that point. But if you, the writer, change large portions of the manuscript as suggested without really thinking it through, then you risk losing your voice, what makes that story uniquely yours.

Some helpful hints:

*Try reading your work aloud. You’ll find that you might stumble over awkward words or phrasing, or long passages that can be condensed. This is a way to strengthen your style and maintain your voice.

*Be yourself and express yourself. Let your writing mirror your inner self. Don’t try to mimic your favourite authors. Find your own true self in your writing.

*Don’t wait for the “right” moment to write. Just like exercise which should be done regularly to be of any benefit, writing needs to be practiced regularly.  

*Think of your writing voice as a chunk of coal - solid carbon. With pressure and outside forces, it becomes a rough rock with promise. Then with practice and polish, it has the potential to be a stunning, sparkling, multi-faceted diamond.

I often tell people who have submitted work to me for editing, “You can fix grammar, punctuation and spelling - they are all easily learned – BUT you can’t fix or learn your voice. This is your individual talent to communicate and bring to life the kernel of an idea and make it compelling reading.”


Monday, 24 October 2011

You Be The Judge

“How easy it is to judge rightly after one sees what evil comes from judging wrongly!” Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-65), English novelist. Cynthia, in Wives and Daughters, chapter 43 (1866) of her misplaced attachment to Mr. Preston.

Gaskell’s protagonist may not have been talking about judging a writing competition, but her words can still ring true for the literary world. When first asked to judge a romance writers’ competition, I was flattered, excited, and eager. I could voice my opinion on someone else’s work and it would mean something. Then I realized what a huge responsibility it was to not just critique, but judge someone’s work. I had the power to make or break this person’s ego, but not in the one-on-one critiquing I was used to. I could decide if the entry advanced into the second round and perhaps onto greater things, or winged its way back home without further progression.

No one said it would be easy, and it wasn’t. Some entries were a pleasure to read from beginning to end. Others seemed a hard slog. I could write pages on what were the main strengths and weaknesses, but that’s not what this article is about.

Fortunately the competition coordinators involved in all competitions I’ve judged had prepared their critique sheets meticulously, some with extra judging notes and a list of expectations. This made the entire experience a lot easier than it could have been.

What is expected of a judge? Of course it’s necessary to have a basic knowledge of spelling, grammar and punctuation. It’s helpful to have read several books in the line at which the authors are aiming their stories in order to have a “feel” for the line. Judges are usually asked which categories they prefer to judge, e.g. a person who enjoys reading only historicals may not be the ideal judge of paranormal romance.

In most competitions, judges are allowed to write on the actual manuscripts or Word documents, which makes it a lot easier to point out problem areas. It means we can indicate parts where the author has achieved her goal, whether through good use of words for descriptive purposes or the dreaded “showing not telling”. Perhaps the author has found a clever twist for an old cliché? Always tell the writer when she’s managed to impress you, evoked some emotion in you, or made you smile.

Just as writing is subjective, scoring that writing is also subjective. Usually a judge is asked to score from a low of 1, meaning it requires a complete overhaul, to a high of whatever the individual competition allows for. The high score should be reserved for an entry that is as ready for publication as you could expect in that category.

Remember, you are not judging the stories against each other, but each as an individual, and viewing its suitability for the publisher indicated by the author. If for example an author submits a very racy love scene competently written, but she is aiming for a sweet romance line, then the scene will not be suitable for that house. You should note it somewhere on the judging sheet. Similarly, point out the use of American spelling in a story aimed at an English publisher and vice versa, but do not necessarily remove marks for these.

Even the most perfectly crafted of stories can lack that certain something, that sparkle that brings the whole thing to life. It’s not always easy to define and harder still to tell someone it’s lacking from their entry. In the judge’s comments section, try to summarize the best and worst points of the entries. I use the “sandwich” technique: start with a positive remark, preferably stretch it into a few sentences. Then include the parts of the writing that needs more than just fine tuning, or that simply didn’t work. Always finish with a positive paragraph or sentence, even if it’s just “Good luck!” “Good entry!” or “Well done!”

It’s always useful to an entrant if you can pinpoint those areas that need work. Stress if it’s a repeated mistake in punctuation or grammar. If you love the hero but don’t feel sympathetic toward the heroine, tell the author her character needs more layers. If the sexual or sensual tension doesn’t quite work, perhaps the author needs to work on showing with actions instead of telling. Is the conflict clear? Is the motivation not contrived or forced? Is the dialogue fresh and appropriate to the character’s background, age and gender? And I always thank authors who have sent their entry in the correct format.

It’s also wise to distance yourself from the story and characters. If the hero reminds you of an ex-lover who you loathe, don’t let that interfere with your comments or score. However, if the hero is wimpy and you feel he needs to be more assertive, or if he seems to be too much of a bastard to the heroine, by all means point it out and let the score reflect your opinion.

How do Gaskell’s words relate to judging in competitions? Imagine how much harm you can do to an author if you trash her work. The most important thing you, as a judge, need to remember is that all entries deserve praise and encouragement. All writers can improve if given a little encouragement. The author has allowed you into a very private part of her life. You are holding her baby in your arms, so to speak. Don’t give false applause, but be gentle. Would you want your work to be torn to shreds? Of course not. So judge responsibly. Be fair, but be kind.

The most satisfying part for me was my first bit of fan mail. An entrant wrote to thank me for my encouraging remarks. That particular author is now multi-published by one of the largest international romance houses. It wasn’t the story I judged, but this entrant took the time to thank me for my efforts and I felt as happy as if I’d handed her the contract myself.

Finally, I’ve had a lot of help in my writing career. I’ve met wonderful, giving people who gave not only their time, but their expertise to help me along my way. Judging in competitions has helped me to give back a little of what I’ve learnt.


Monday, 3 October 2011

Romance Writers Words to Live By: Newton's Third Law of Motion

(Continuing with my Science of Romance Writing Theme)

Years ago I read a story where the hero came to Australia to tell the heroine that the grandmother who had raised her was dying. The hero and heroine had quite a history and she’d left the country several years earlier. There were some great emotions when he first saw her and then when she first saw him. But when he explained that she must return to see her dying grandmother, she broke down and told him there was a three and a half year old child. And I braced myself for the huge reaction from him. Instead he went into pragmatic mode and started making plans about adding the child to her mother’s passport and the practicalities of travelling with a young child. At this stage the author lost me.

What could be more emotional than finding out that you have a daughter with the woman you once loved?

So we have: Newton's Third Law of Motion:

“For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

Looking at a similar scene, let’s say we have a hero, Carl and the heroine, Grace. If we’re in the hero’s point of view, we expect to feel what Carl is feeling and see what he sees. e.g.

Carl watched as Grace wrung her hands together, bit her lip just like she used to all those years ago. Why is she so nervous? It must have been a shock to hear about her beloved grandma, though she hadn’t been back to see Helene since she left London four years ago.

She hadn’t been back to see him, either.

Though they hadn’t parted on the best of terms and he could have followed if he hadn’t been so damn proud.

Grace looked amazing. Her slim body was a little rounder in all the right places. Her hair, still wild and spiky, now barely touched her collar. He sensed something different in her. Time did that to a person. She looked him in the eye but then turned her face to gaze out the window at the quiet street.  “I can’t just leave.”

 “Helene is waiting. She is hanging on just for you.” Perhaps there was a man in her life that she couldn’t leave. Something shifted inside him. 

Tears threatened to flood her eyes but she blinked them back. “I want to go but I can’t. I have... responsibilities.”

What could be more important than her responsibility to the woman who raised her from age five? It’s not like she was a high fallutin’ corporate leader. Surely she could take a few days out of her busy schedule at the jewellery shop.

He moved closer to her. The sunshine freshness of her perfume swirled around him but he refused to let it taunt him.

She pulled back slightly, still blinking hard.  “I have a child.”

Surprise siphoned through him. A child? So there was a man in her life.

“She can come with you—”

“Carl, we have a daughter.”

Carl’s world suddenly tilted on its axis. His gut tightened, his heart beat fast and loud, thumping in his ears. Of all the scenarios he’d been through on the flight to Melbourne, he hadn’t given thought to anything like this. His mind buzzed with the news. He had child. A daughter. He started to pace back and forth.

“How? When?” He knew how. His mind tripped back to that last month together. Those long, lazy nights. The frenzied moments during the day. He stopped in front of her. They’d been careful every time.

Almost every time.

“And it didn’t occur to you to tell me.” He heard the sarcasm dripping from his own words. “A child, Grace. My child!” The blood surged through his veins and exploded in his head.

“Carl, I—”

“You what, Grace? You forgot?” His voice raised a few decibels. “You were too busy?”

“I know how you must feel.” Her face grew pale, her eyes wide and watery.

“Do you? How do I feel, Grace?” He wanted to grab her and shake her and make the last four years disappear. “Tell me how I feel!” He realized he was shouting and tried to reel in his anger. “Explain to me how I feel.”

She suddenly seemed quite frail. He refused to feel sorry for her.


Now if this scene were written in the heroine’s point of view, we would be privy to her emotions and what she sees.

As an exercise, why not write the scene from in Grace’s POV?


Monday, 19 September 2011

Synopsis Writing 101

Given that the Romance Writers of Australia Selling Synopsis Competition 2011 closes this Friday  ( ) I thought I’d give you a few tips about writing a synopsis for romance fiction.

Synopsis Writing 101
Writing a synopsis can seem daunting and most people dread or even fear doing it, yet it is one of the most important marketing tools for a writer. Here are a few simple rules to make it easier.

*Standard formatting for a synopsis is: double space using a 12 point readable font. Courier New is often used because it is a non-proportional font, i.e. every letter and character takes up the same space whether it’s a full stop/period (.) or the letter W.

In the days of counting words by page count, it was the font of choice. Today word counts are usually done using the computer word count tool. Times New Roman is popular, as is Arial, but you can use any font that is easy to read. Don’t just avoid fancy fonts, don’t use them! While they might look pretty, they are taxing on the eyes and we want to keep the editor as happy and relaxed as possible. 2.5 cm margins all round. Number all pages in the upper right and corner, with a header on the top left corner with: AUTHOR SURNAME/Book Title (e.g. SMITH/The Great Love Story) on each page.

*Check publisher guidelines for the number of pages. Standard synopsis length is either one or two pages, for category romance, depending on the line, or up to ten pages for single title or mainstream manuscripts.

*Print on one side of the paper only.

*Write the synopsis in the present tense. This is an industry standard and makes the reader live the story as it unfolds.

*While we should “show not tell” in our writing, a synopsis is all about telling. Tell the editor EVERYTHING - the entire story. Leaving out details in the hope that the editor will want to read won’t win you any points, and will probably cost you the loss of a contract.

 *For category romance fiction, focus on the growing relationship. The plot is secondary. For single title and mainstream, the plot is more important and all twists and turns must be stated. But no matter what genre your book is aimed at, the emotional growth is the most important part to include in a synopsis. It’s also crucial to tell us when each character realizes s/he is in love with the other.

*The first time you use the heroine or hero’s name in the synopsis, type it in CAPITAL letters. Do this only the first time.

#1--A hook that defines the general tone/plot of your story, like you'd like
to see on the back cover of your book. This could be the basic premise or theme of your story. If your book is humorous, then make this humorous. The hook does not contain description or background.

#2--Introduce the heroine and what she wants (goal). Introduce the hero and
what he wants (goal). These two can be in any order.

#3--What's throwing them together (present conflicts e.g.  jobs, mutual family
problems like they need to look after their dead sibling's children, etc)

#4--What's keeping the heroine and hero apart? (Inner emotional conflicts - past broken
relationships: Why must the heroine absolutely never fall in love again - especially with someone like the hero? And vice versa.


Without conflict there is no book!  

#5--How do the heroine and hero eventually get together (resolution). And you MUST tell the editor how everything is resolved. Everything must be tied up neatly in a satisfying way. If you can link it somehow with the opening hook so you come a full 360, all the better.

In between points 1 to 5, include the growing attraction, the blossoming relationship and character growth.

Simple, right?  With practice, it can be. Good luck!

This article can also be found on the Melbourne Romance Writers Guild Website in the articles section:

Monday, 5 September 2011

Statement: There is a Formula to Writing Romance Novels

I wish! In my former career I was a medical researcher. I have a Bachelors of Science Degree in Chemistry and Microbiology. If this magic, elusive formula existed, I would have found it many, many years ago.

BUT one can argue that there are vital ingredients for the recipe to a good category or series romance novel.

1. The hero and heroine should meet (or meet again after a long separation) within the first few pages of the novel. This should be at a point of change – when something life-changing is happening to one of them. There is no time for setting up the story – editors want the hero and heroine to meet up as soon as possible and let us see the sparks fly – the sizzling romance sparks NOT arguments!

2. The most important parts of your crafting techniques are the Emotional Obstacles (Past Conflicts) that make it seem absolutely impossible that the hero and heroine could ever be together. Romantic conflict is about emotion, not the situation. The conflict must stem from the characters themselves because of who they are and what they have lived through. If the hero and heroine have a past, this conflict must not be based on coincidence that could be resolved over a cup of coffee. e.g. the hero didn’t get the messages that heroine left for him.

3. Physical obstacles (present conflict) push the hero and heroine together so that they are always in each other’s face. The hero and heroine don’t want to fall in love – especially not with each other – but they are forced to spend time together. e.g. Heroine lives in Smalltown and loves it. Hero left and lives in Bigtown. Their brother and sister die in car accident, their son survives. The hero and heroine have joint custody. Both want to look after the child but neither wants to move.

4. After many trials, the hero and heroine will realize that they are in love with the other, they will arrive at the Black Moment, when everything seems lost and nothing can save the day. One or both characters will make a sacrifice for the other and/or change in some major way that proves their love. 

5. After the last big crisis is resolved the hero and heroine admit their love to each other and will then enter into a committed relationship.

So a formula we could extrapolate is:
hero + heroine + love conflicts + present conflicts + personal growth = Happy Ever After

The magic formula for writing romance can be summarized: Take one sympathetic heroine and one yummy hero. Add in some past conflicts with reasons they should never ever fall in love. Give them reasons to be in each other’s face all the time. Let them grow as people and maybe make a sacrifice that really hurts. Stir it together and give them a Happy Ever After.


Tuesday, 23 August 2011

From Here To Eternity

Romance Writers of Australia’s 20th Anniversary Conference 11th-14th August 2011

A chilly Melbourne weekend brought together nearly 350 writers from all over Australia and overseas as they hit the Hilton On The Park with enthusiasm, excitement and a camaraderie that is not often found in an industry where people are competing for the same holy grail. In what other business would you find colleagues cheering you on when you get that wonderful promotion they’ve also been working hard to obtain? Publication is the aim, and the conference is the place to learn some of the skills to get there. It’s also the place to pitch to an editor or agent, network with old friends and make news ones, and let down your hair at the various social functions after working hard all day in the workshops.

From Here To Eternity was the Romance Writers of Australia’s twentieth anniversary conference and it was wonderfully thought out each step of the way. Lots of very high profile published authors, editors and presenters came from all over to make it RWA’s biggest and best conference yet. There were so many lightbulb moments, I could write a book about it J While I didn’t attend all the workshops and plenary sessions, here is a snapshot of the highlights for me.

Special mention must go to Mills & Boon Sweet Romance and Mills & Boon Medical Romance author Marion Lennox’s opening keynote address on Sunday morning, “Your Writer’s Staffroom, with Steamy Bits.” Marion kept us captivated with her witty style, poignant details and telling photos. I wish I’d taken notes because some of her lines were hysterically funny. (And you can blame post-conference brain drain for the lack of examples – that and me refusing to name the people in those funny photos J)

For me, the highlight workshop was Mills & Boon Medical Romance and Carina Press author, Fiona Lowe’s “Writing The Male Point Of View”. Fiona has such a great, easy to understand presenting style and always includes lots of examples. Fiona has a way with words both on the printed page and as a speaker. The clips from a popular British sit-com, Coupling really helped us grasp her points, at the same time giving us a laugh or three. I’ve never watched the show but will be looking out for the series! Interesting we only had one male attending the workshop and he actually said that Fiona was spot on about everything.  

For the perfect ending to a fairytale conference, the closing address on Sunday afternoon, “And They All Lived Happily Ever After” delivered by Jane Porter, was inspiring and everyone there was enthralled and a little surprised by her candidness and perseverance. Jane wrote many books before being accepted by Mills & Boon Presents/Sexy. She claims she has about thirteen manuscripts that will never be published and she read out the rejection letters for many of those books.

While we nodded in understanding and cried inside just a little with each rejection she read out, Jane revealed that it took her fifteen years of constantly writing, polishing and submitting before she got the call. Fifteen years! How’s that for tenacity!

I knew Jane online before her first sale and I remember the excitement when she sent the email telling us that she’d sold. We conversed for many years but lost touch after a while. Nevertheless, I went up and introduced myself and was surprised when she hugged me and remembered me. What a lovely person.

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise. The romance writing industry is full of lovely people. My only regret at this conference is that I didn’t have the time to get around and speak to every one of the 350 people attending, but you can be sure I did try.